Naliboki self-defence unit possibly in a meeting with NKVD officer (left) prior to being massacred (between 1942 and 1943)
|Location||Naliboki German-occupied Poland|
|Date||May 8, 1943|
|Weapons||Automatic and semi-automatic weapons|
The Naliboki massacre (Polish: zbrodnia w Nalibokach) was the 8 May 1943 mass killing of 129 Poles, including women and children, by Soviet partisans in the small town of Naliboki in German-occupied Poland (the town is now in Belarus).
Following Operation Barbarossa, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union, Soviet resistance forces operated in eastern Poland, behind German lines, in Naliboki Forest. In 1942, NKVD leaders were sent in to them by Central Headquarters of the Partisan Movement, and the partisans were airdropped material. Local partisans were recruited from Red Army soldiers of all ethnicities who had been cut off by German encirclements, and from Ukrainians and pro-Soviet Belarusians. They forcibly took provisions from villagers, whom they treated as enemies. The murder of peasants by way of terrorizing them into giving up provisions began in 1943 when villages such as Kamień, Derewno, Borowikowszczyzna, Dziagwie, and Rodziewszczyzna were raided. Naliboki was among the raided villages. Consequently in August 1942, by order of the Germans, the villagers formed a self-defense unit, and the village police station was closed.
Some members of the Naliboki self-defense unit were Home Army members who used their self-defense membership as cover. The Soviet partisans were aware of this, and in March and April 1943 they arranged two meetings with the Polish self-defense leaders. During the talks, the Soviet partisans insisted that the Poles join them, but the Poles refused. However, an agreement was signed with the Poles, who were represented by Eugeniusz Klimowicz, concerning a truce and joint operations against robbers hiding in the forest. The Soviet partisans violated the truce.
On the night of 8–9 May 1943, Soviet partisans raided Naliboki. A few of the Soviet attackers, including a political officer, were killed by the defenders. Polish men were dragged from their homes and shot individually or in small groups. Mass looting followed. Many farmhouses were set on fire. Also killed during the Soviet attack were three Polish women, several teenagers, and a ten-year-old boy. The town's church was set on fire, along with the public school, fire station, and post office. The raid took two to three hours.
The Soviet commander reported to the NKVD the killing of 250 people, the capture of weapons, the rounding up of 100 cows and 78 horses, and the destruction of a German garrison. In reality, the number of victims was lower (now estimated at 129), no Germans were present or killed, and only one Belarusian auxiliary policeman happened to be sleeping in the town on the night of the attack.
Following Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet partisans active in the area of eastern Poland were often joined by the Polish Jews trying to survive the escape from the Nazi ghettos. The controversy, as noted in a communique released by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance IPN, concerns the participation of the Bielski partisans who might have supported the Soviets in the attack based on their ongoing relationship. Survivors of the Bielski group have denied this, particularly after the release of a film about them, entitled Defiance. The Bielski partisans were stationed in Jasionowskie Forest near Wsielub, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Naliboki. The group used to requisition foodstuffs from nearby localities, including meat, bread and milk in quantities easy to carry back. They were close enough to the site of the massacre.
On 20 March 2001 an investigation into the Naliboki massacre was launched by IPN in Łódź. As of April 2009 the IPN has not reported its findings, however Bogdan Musiał has stated that there was no evidence to support the allegation that the Bielski partisans were involved in the attack. According to a statement by the IPN, the unit involved was the "Stalin" brigade, accompanied by partisans from the "Dzerzhinsky", "Bolszewik" and "Suvorov" units. Polish journalist Piotr Gluchowski said witnesses mentioning the Bielskis were merely "parroting what they had read in a book by an avowed anti-Semite". Bielski partisan survivors denied any involvement.
The routine attacks on Polish underground units by Soviet partisans could not have been circumvented by Jews in their ranks. The IPN historian Kazimierz Krajewski reported that in the forest around Lida some 25% of the partisans were Jewish, or as many as 1,200 people, even though only 162 of them were armed, because the Soviet handouts were few and far between. Notably, the Soviet NKVD persecuted the pro-German Belarusian populace at least as badly as the anti-Nazi Poles. Thousands of Belarusian collaborators were killed, including teachers, local administrators and members of the Belarusian Auxiliary Police, and dozens of Polish communities were destroyed. Resulting from this, at least on ten different occasions the Nowogródek District division (pl) of the Armia Krajowa attempted to negotiate with the Soviet partisans to stop the attacks on hapless villages. Those attempts were futile. In May 1943, the entire Polish delegation was murdered by the Soviets in the powiat of Szczuczyn and the pacifications continued. Apart from Naliboki, other massacres were committed in Koniuchy, Szczepki, Prowżały, Kamień, Niewoniańce, Izabelin, Kaczewo, Babińsk, and Ługomowicze, including murders around Dokudów and near the Narocz and Kromań lakes, as well as in Derewno.
In May 2003, prosecutor Anna Gałkiewicz from IPN's Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation KŚZpNP, in charge of the investigations into the massacre in Naliboki and the Koniuchy massacre of 1944, reported that surviving eyewitnesses from Naliboki recognized Jews who had previously been in the Bielski partisans participating in the attack. Gałkiewicz named the Soviet brigades engaged in war crimes against civilians. They included the "Dzerzhinsky", "Bolshevik", and "Suvorov" brigades, as well as the "Stalin" brigade under Pavel Gulevich, which perpetrated the Naliboki massacre. Mieczyslaw Klimowicz, author of The Last Day of Naliboki (2009) was one of the 24 witnesses to the killings. As of May 2016, the regional division of IPN stated that investigations regarding war crimes in Nowogródek Voivodeship of the Second Polish Republic were still ongoing. Nevertheless, the presence of several Jewish residents of Naliboki during the massacre has also been confirmed by their names.
- Klimowicz, Mieczyslaw (2008). The Last Day of Naliboki: The Untold Story Behind the Massacre. American Literary Press. ISBN 9781934696262.
- pg. 247
- "Wyborcza.pl". wyborcza.pl. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
- IPN (November 2013). "Śledztwo w sprawie zbrodni popełnionych przez partyzantów radzieckich na żołnierzach Armii Krajowej i ludności cywilnej na terenie powiatów Stołpce i Wołożyn woj. nowogródzkie (S 17/01/Zk)". Śledztwa w biegu - Zbrodnie komunistyczne. Instytut Pamieci Narodowej. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
- Kazimierz Krajewski. "Ginęli, ratując Żydów" [Dying while Rescuing Jews] (PDF). „Opor”? „Odwet”? Czy po prostu „polityka historyczna”? O Żydach w partyzantce sowieckiej na Kresach II RP. Warsaw: IPN Bulletin. NR 3 (98), March 2009: 99–120. ISSN 1641-9561. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-22.
- Geraldine Bereziuk Lowrey (March 5, 2015). "Book Review". The Last Day of Naliboki By Mieczyslaw Klimowicz (American Literary Press, 2009). The Am-Pol Eagle, Cheektowaga, NY.
At the time, Mieczyslaw Klimowicz, the son of Eugeniusz Klimowicz, was in his teens.
- IPN (1 March 2002), Investigation Reports on Koniuchy and Naliboki, Institute of National Memory, retrieved 19 January 2014
- IPN. "Komunikat dot. śledztwa w sprawie zbrodni popełnionych przez partyzantów sowieckich w latach 1942–1944 na terenie byłego województwa nowogródzkiego" (in Polish). Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
- A Hollywood Movie About Heroes or Murderers?, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2008-06-16.
- The True Story of the Bielski Brothers (in Polish) Prawdziwa historia Bielskich, Gazeta Wyborcza, 2009-01-06
- Kamil Tchorek (2008-12-31). "Country split over whether Daniel Craig is film hero or villain". The Times. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
- Bogdan Musiał (2009-01-31). "Bielski w puszczy niedomówień". Subscription payment required. Rzeczpospolita.
- Jewish Brothers' Resistance Inspired 'Defiance', NPR, 27 December 2008
- Bielski brothers were heroes, says survivor, Telegraph, David Harrison, 10 Jan 2009